The town of Coffeeville, Alabama, and the Grove Hill Arts Council are joining forces on a project to restore the old Coffeeville School for community use. In so doing, they will recognize one of the school’s most famous students, Ted M. Dunagan.
Ted Dunagan is the author of three award-winning young adult novels set in that area during the late 1940s, published by NewSouth Books. A stage play based on his first novel, A Yellow Watermelon, premieres Friday, March 7 at 11am and Saturday, March 8 at 7pm at the old Coffeeville high school auditorium.
“A Yellow Watermelon: A Play in Two Acts” has been written by Cathi Gunter, a local playwright. The idea for the project was inspired by the play based on the Harper Lee classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, presented annually in the nearby town of Monroeville, Alabama. Sponsors of the project include Town of Coffeeville, Grove Hill Arts Council, Arts Council of Thomasville, and Lewis Pest Control.
The first performance of “A Yellow Watermelon” will be attended by Clarke County middle schoolers, who will also compete in an essay contest about the novel on which the play is based. Author Ted Dunagan will participate in a Q&A session after the morning performance and present the writing awards.
A second performance of the play will be staged for the general public on Saturday evening, March 8, at 7pm. All are welcome.
Prior to the Saturday performance, at 5pm, the town of Coffeeville will host a reception honoring Mr. Dunagan.
The Clarke County Democrat featured news of the play on its front page recently (click image for larger view).
Mr. Dunagan has been an annual presenter at Wilson Hall Middle School in Grove Hill for the past five years, following the study of his books by the eighth grade. His novels include A Yellow Watermelon (2008), Secret of the Satilfa (2010), and Trouble on the Tombigbee (2011). A fourth, The Salvation of Miss Lucretia, is due out from NewSouth Books in March. About the play and activities planned, he says, “This is going to be an extraordinary event, made possible by a group of wonderful and resourceful people, taking place in a very special part of the world.”
A Yellow Watermelon tells the story of two boys, one white and one black; Ted and Poudlum are autobiographical. Their friendship, the adventures they share, and the way in which they deal with racial issues in the rural South of the 1940s have resonated with people of all ages. The book won for the author the Georgia Author of the Year Award. It was also recognized on the inaugural 25 Books Young Georgians Should Read list.
For tickets or information about the play, contact Cathi Gunter (email@example.com), Janee Parden (firstname.lastname@example.org), or the town of Coffeeville at 251-276-3266. Tickets are $15.